Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Bloom Where You Are Planted {Grandma Rose}

Today, my Grandma Rose went home to be with Jesus, to worship Him forever alongside of the love of her life, my Grandpa Sam. She had a long, full life and I was so very blessed to call her my grandmother.

Grandma Rose was born in the midst of some very hard, spare years in both America's story and her family's story. She was one of 7 children and lost her mother at a very young age. She grew through the years into a beautiful young woman with a gentle and kind spirit. She caught the eye of my Grandpa Sam at a young age and their love story is one that I had tremendous privilege to see in person, even well into their final years together.

As I sit and process her passing, the memories are tumbling. 

Snippets of the great tenors and Italian arias wind through my mind. 
Smells of deep red marinara sauce and fried chicken cutlets come alive. 
Her incredibly soft arms are brushing mine while I sit next to her at the table,
listening to the loud, boisterous laughter between the aunts, uncles,
cousins, in-laws and "outlaws" that were always welcome at their table. 
Thanksgiving feasts of turkey, stuffed shells and lasagna 
spread along the two long tables in their basement.
Sitting at her old-fashioned dressing table, pretending to be 
a grown-up "fancy" lady while playing with her hats, pins, and pearls.

Perhaps one of my favorite memories that I replay the most often, even now, is one that took place in her kitchen almost every time I was with them. Grandpa Sam used to pretend to spar with her as she washed the dishes or folded kitchen towels. He was a huge boxing aficionado and he would dance around her, punching the air and saying "Come on, Ro! Have a go with me. Give me your best shot." Her blushing brush-offs and sweet, almost embarrassed and yet tolerant smiles brought me such peace and enjoyment as a kid. Even at that young age, I remember LOVING how they brought us in to their love story with his winks at me when he snuck up on her in the kitchen. With how she rolled her eyes when I would giggle at her "Oh, Sam" responses. As an adult (now that I've learned so much more of their story before they became the patriarchs of this big family we are now), I see so much more. I didn't know it then though. I didn't know how much those moments would come to mean. I just knew I felt loved. By watching their love. 

Grandma Rose wasn't one of those hot-house roses, fragile and easily overcome by the elements. She wasn't green-house born and raised, withering easily for lack of water or care. No, my Grandma Rose was a Knock Out Rose. Yes, she was a beautiful woman. A knockout as they said back in the day. But I'm talking about these beauties. Knock Out Roses are known for their full, lush blooms and for being very low maintenance. They don't require specialized care, perfect soil or optimum sunlight to thrive. They are drought-hearty and their roots spread wide, allowing them to spread and grow well in almost any place they are planted. They bloom where they are planted and then some.

My grandmother was that variety of woman that bloomed regardless of her surroundings. She had a hard childhood. A really hard one. She and her siblings were forced to cling tenaciously to each other, to intertwine their roots and hang on for dear life. And hang on they did. Back then, there was very little special care available to that scrappy immigrant family. They just had to dig in and do life together. When they married, she welcomed my grandfather's even larger family as her own. Together, along with her siblings and his, their love and commitment crafted even deeper roots and lush, full family trees. Their tenacity yielded our close-knit, loving extended family. It was, as I've said before, a wonderful way for a child to grow - connected to generations before me.

Grandma Rose wasn't as loud and boisterous as others in our family were. Usually, she'd be found working quietly in the kitchen, watching the kids playing in the yard from the window over her sink. Or quietly joining the conversations from her spot behind the long counter. She was gentle. Soft-spoken. Humble. Honest. The perfect straight-woman to Grandpa's light-hearted antics. She was steady. Reliable. Comfortably predictable and constant. Along with my Grandfather, her quiet, persevering root system spread its life to three beautiful daughters onward to 10 grandchildren and now to 19 great-grandchildren. Those blooms are beautiful and plenteous and growing still.

We didn't know it when we named her, but our little Mei Mei's personality couldn't really be more opposite from the great-grandmother for whom she is named. But I DID know that the beauty of a Rose, that the joy and life it gives, takes many different varieties so it felt like the perfect fit at the time. In the years since Mei Mei has been home, I've learned that my grandmother and her little namesake share some very similar hard beginnings to their stories. Difficulties that my grandmother overcame and used as a root system to build the life she shared with my grandfather. My grandmother's story and my daughter's story began worlds and generations apart from one another. Nevertheless, their roots are deeply intertwined now. That is the miracle of family, is it not? It is my dearest dream that our Mei Mei will push that root system even deeper, spread it further, and continue the legacy of beautiful, plenteous blooming. That she will carry her name proudly and feel rooted to the heritage into which she is now grafted. No matter the hardships she has faced or will face as she grows.

For several years now, my best friend has been suggesting to me that I fill the front garden with Knock Out Roses because nothing else has grown well there. This Spring, I will do that. I will plant several rose bushes in honor of The Knock Out Rose that my Grandma was. I will remember and I will tell my children that so very often the most beautiful blooms come out of the hardest of hardships.

Good bye Grandma Rose. Thank you for your gentle, loving ways.
Thank you for digging in and doing the hard stuff and creating
this beautiful family we love. Give Grandpa Sam a huge hug for me.
And maybe just a fun, soft little punch in the arm.
I know you have it in you! I love you.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Tracy, I remember you when you were a very little girl! Thank you for sharing your blog. I love your thoughts on your lovely Grandmother, Rose. Your Aunt Rita and I have been good friends since 6th grade. My Dad was friends with your Grandfather when they were growing up. When my Dad went to Mary Immaculate Assisted Living, he was placed at a dining table with your Grandmother! He passed away on December 2nd, almost 100 years old. The same beautiful quilt that was placed on my Dad, was placed on your Grandmother early this morning. Lives intertwined. I'm certain that Rose was welcomed in Paradise with shouts of joy!

Again, thank you, Tracy.
Ann Zaccari More